Melbourne Water pays tribute to ‘army’ of volunteers

Friday 12 May 2017
​To mark National Volunteer Week, Melbourne Water has paid tribute to the thousands of volunteers who help complete vital works along rivers and creeks, raise awareness of the importance of healthy waterways, and take to their local wetland to identify and record endangered species.
 
Volunteers make a difference in a number of ways, from collecting frog calls through the Melbourne Water Frog Census, to recording platypus sightings through platypusSPOT and monitoring waterway health through the Water Quality program.
 
Melbourne Water General Manager Waterways and Land, Tim Wood, said healthy rivers and creeks helped maintain Melbourne’s status as one of the world’s most liveable cities, and volunteers were integral to this effort.
 
“Our research tells us people love waterways as places to exercise, relax, or catch up with family and friends,” said Mr Wood.
 
“Dedicated volunteers spend hundreds of hours removing weeds and litter and planting trees to improve waterway habitats for plants and animals, as well as making our rivers and creeks enjoyable places for Melburnians to visit.”
 
Through Melbourne Water’s River Health Incentives Program, now in its 21st year, volunteers from more than 230 community groups, 38 councils and more than 4,300 individuals have worked to protect and improve the health of Melbourne’s waterways.
 
The program has seen volunteers plant millions of trees, remove tonnes of litter and install thousands of kilometres of fencing to restore waterways for a length equivalent to the distance from Melbourne to Byron Bay.
 
Through Melbourne Water’s Frog Census and Platypus Census, hundreds of volunteers make a vital contribution to science and conservation by submitting wildlife records.
 
The Frog Census, a community frog monitoring program that uses data submitted by community members to inform Melbourne Water’s management of waterways, has seen more than 5,000 frog records submitted by a core of dedicated volunteers over 16 years.
 
Since the launch of a new Frog Census app in September 2016, volunteers have submitted over 1000 recordings of frogs from across greater Melbourne.
 
“In the past, volunteers have been armed with a clipboard and recording equipment,” said Mr Wood.
 
“With the new app it can be done at the press of a button. The app records the frog’s call, tags the location and sends the data to us for analysis.
 
“We are very thankful for the data we receive from the community, which we use to identify where directing our conservation efforts will make the biggest difference. This includes improving habitat and water quality.”
 
Nearly 600 volunteers currently participate in the Frog Census – a dramatic increase from the 80 registered volunteers in 2015/16, before the introduction of the app.
Volunteers have detected rare and endangered frogs, such as the Growling Grass Frog and Southern Toadlet, at a number of sites across Melbourne.
 
Since the launch of the platypusSPOT app last year, volunteers have reported over 100 platypus sightings in the Melbourne area. Approximately 30 platypus enthusiasts are regularly involved in taking platypus environmental DNA (eDNA) samples in the Werribee River and Monbulk Creek each spring and autumn, providing valuable insights into the status of Melbourne’s platypus populations.
 
Melburnians with a keen eye also participate in Melbourne Water’s Waterbug Census.
 
A dedicated band of 65 volunteers has collected data at over 100 sites since 2014 and identified more than 10,000 aquatic macroinvertebrates, or waterbugs.
 
The efforts of volunteers don’t stop at monitoring Melbourne’s wildlife. Melbourne Water’s Water Quality program sees more than 200 volunteers from 65 groups regularly monitoring water quality at dedicated sites around Melbourne.
 
A network of volunteer community rain readers record daily rainfall data that, together with information from automated gauges, help to understand rainfall patterns across Melbourne. Some volunteers have been submitting rainfall data for as long as 50 years.
 
Mr Wood said National Volunteer Week was a perfect occasion to pay tribute to the important work carried out by Melburnians.
 
“So much of the important work we do would not be possible without the efforts of our incredibly dedicated volunteers,” he said.
 
“Managing Melbourne’s 8,400km of rivers and creeks is a big job, making the support of community members essential to protecting and improving waterways for the environment and recreation.
 
“We’re incredibly grateful for our army of volunteers and look forward to working with the community to help make Melbourne a great place to live.”
Media contact: Josie Emanuel (03) 9679 7311; 0428 945 556
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